LGBTQ rally at Stonewall Inn protests Trump’s reversal of transgender student rights guidelines

A rally in support of LGBTQ rights was held at the Stonewall National Monument on Feb. 23, 2017.
A rally in support of LGBTQ rights was held at the Stonewall National Monument on Feb. 23, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images for WE Day / Frederick M. Brown

With chants of, “When trans youth are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back” ringing through the streets, thousands of LGBTQ activists flooded into Greenwich Village Thursday.

The “emergency rally,” which organizers said drew between 2,000 and 3,000 people, was held in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind landmark guidelines that offered protections for transgender students in public schools.

“Our children are under attack!” Kim Watson, vice president and co-founder of Community Kinship Life, told the cheering crowd outside of the Stonewall National Monument. “This is not a state issue; this is a human rights issue!”

The evening rally featured protesters with signs chastising the president as well as chants of, “This is what Democracy looks like,” and “Stand up, fight back.” One handmade sign that said, “Trans youth, you are loved,” was decorated with Christmas lights.

Andy Rodin, 36, of Bushwick, held a sign that read, “Trump Pence and cronies how about transitioning into decent human beings.”

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said of Trump’s decision. “The Muslim ban got stymied, so it was like ‘onto the next marginalized group.’ I hope this shows the benefit of coming together.” 

The rally comes just one day after the Trump administration announced withdrawal of federal guidelines issued by former President Barack Obama.

The directive, championed by LGBTQ rights activists, allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that matched their chosen gender identity and threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not comply.

“This latest assault by the Trump administration on LGBT rights is an outrage. And we won’t take it lying down,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler.

Activist Shelby Chestnut urged the crowd to contact their local and state representatives.

“This is a real safety risk and it’s something we need to make a priority…particularly for trans students,” Chestnut said.

More than 50 organizations signed on as sponsors of the event as well more than 15 state and local officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Liz Boylan, 33, of Prospect Heights, was very impressed with the turnout.

“I think it’s important that people come out to this because anytime we have an attack on one group of people, it’s really an attack on everybody,” she said, adding that she hoped the rally would “embolden more people to speak up in other places.”

New York City has had its own guidelines in place since 2014, stating that a “transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity,” according to the Department of Education.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said those guidelines remain in effect in all New York City public schools.

-With Alison Fox